Q: I keep hearing that it’s important to tailor your resume to each job you apply for, but I’m not sure I’m doing this correctly. What is your advice?
A: The three components of the resume that are most likely to catch a recruiter’s eye are a skills/qualifications section, the resume’s overall formatting and the bullet points that describe your past job experiences. Each of these components can, and should, be tailored for specific job opportunities.
Here’s how to tailor each one:
Skills/qualification paragraph – This paragraph should appear at the top of your resume (under your name) and is where you highlight your strong skills and qualifications for the job. Instead of using general language in this paragraph to appeal to the common requirements of multiple jobs, think about the qualities and skills that make you uniquely qualified for the position you’re applying for and tailor this paragraph accordingly. Pay specific attention to certain words and action verbs that describe you and what you do.
Resume formatting – Presentation and appearances are important and that’s why a cleanly formatted resume is essential. Recruiters and hiring managers are turned off by margins or type that are too small or the overuse of bold and italic type. Sometimes candidates are pursuing a job that is in a new industry or one in which they don’t have a lot of experience. In that case, it may make more sense to change the format so that you highlight the skills gained, your work ethic, strengths and interests. Each experience that you share will help tell the recruiter and hiring manager more about you and your character so include all full-time, part-time, co-ops, internships, fieldwork or special projects on your resume if they are applicable to the job.
Bullet points to highlight your accomplishments – Instead of using paragraph form, I recommend having 4-5 bullet points for each of your past 3-4 jobs. These bullet points should highlight your responsibilities and accomplishments in each of those roles. I like to use strategic action words in the bullet points rather than describing your work in the past tense. Tailoring the bullet points is a great way to demonstrate how each of your past jobs makes you uniquely qualified for the job you’re applying to now. Use the bullet points to really highlight the parts of your previous employment that will be attractive to the recruiter and hiring manager. This is effective if you held a job that didn’t come with a formal title (like many early-career positions) or if your past job title isn’t a clear match for the position you want now.
About the Recruiter
Jessica Salerno Incerto has 10+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees career placement, client consultation and management and training. Jessica is also a member of NEHRA’s Diversity Committee.